To motivate and empower a classroom, teachers must be motivated and empowered as well. This is only possible with a balanced schedule and most of our instructors, at their core, are both teachers and performers. Scarsdale Strings believes in nurturing our teachers’ skills as artists and performers, encouraging them to bring these skills into their classrooms to foster a dynamic community.
It is remarkable to see the kind of connections our instructors make when they are on tour. Elizabeth Derham, a Scarsdale Strings music teacher at Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School, toured with A Far Cry this April. A Far Cry is an eighteen piece democratically run chamber orchestra based in Boston. The three day tour took the artists to Castleton College in Vermont and Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C.
What made this a unique experience for Derham is the way the group is run. “Each artistic voice is treasured and we are encouraged to try out new ideas,” she says. For example, a part of Mozart’s Divertimento could be interpreted in different ways. The artists were encouraged to investigate their interpretation and each suggestion was attempted by the entire group before coming to a consensus.
“When you work together on music, there is so much going on in your mind and heart that you have to consciously work together to chisel the excess,” says Derham. She explains that to do this, artists must be good listeners and forward thinkers. They must work on presenting their own ideas while listening closely to the ideas of others to find a way to collaborate. They must also plan ahead to make adjustments according to the acoustics of different spaces and the taste of diverse audiences.
Scarsdale Strings conducts frequent professional development seminars and maintains a sophisticated feedback loop between our instructors, our on-staff teacher mentor and the school’s administration to create a triangle of support. With this, we work to guide dedicated teachers like Elizabeth Derham to inculcate the broader vision of individuality, cooperation and critical problem solving that they experience on tours into our classrooms.